Neurofeedback

Using Neurofeedback to Biohack and Retrain the Migraine Brain: Act IV

Act I
Act II
Act III

I have 21 NeurOptimal sessions under my belt, and I’m considering going for another 10 sessions. So far I’m experiencing improvements in sleep, I’ve had three lucid dreams, which are extremely cool, and I’m able to relax and meditate with more ease. I want to report that I’m less anxious, but I’m still fidgety at times.

Below is a daily recording of migraine headache levels before sessions began and during. As you can see the headache is every day, all day, but the severity jumps around throughout the day and from day to day, which is typical for me.

I recorded head pain levels three times a day, using a pain scale from zero to 10. The following is my average head pain level each day:

Dec 29:  3.7
Dec 30:  4.7
Dec 31:  4
Jan 1:  3
Jan 2:  3
Jan 3:  3

Jan 4:  4.7
Jan 5:  3.5    (NFB #1)
Jan 6:  3.3
Jan 7:  3
Jan 8:  5.3
Jan 9:  5
Jan 10:  2.7

Jan 11:  3
Jan 12:  3.3  (NFB #2)
Jan 13:  5     (NFB #3)
Jan 14:  7     (NFB #4)
Jan 15:  3.3  (NFB #5)
Jan 16:  2.3  (NFB #6)
Jan 17:  3.7

Jan 18:  4.3
Jan 19:  3.7  (NFB #7)
Jan 20:  5.3  (NFB #8)
Jan 21:  2.7  (NFB #9)
Jan 22:  4.3
Jan 23:  4.3  (NFB #10)
Jan 24:  3.7

Jan 25:  3
Jan 26:  4.7  (NFB #11)
Jan 27:  4
Jan 28:  3.7
Jan 29:  3.7
Jan 30:  2
Jan 31:  2.3

Feb 1:  3.3
Feb 2:  2.7
Feb 3:  3      (NFB #12)
Feb 4:  3
Feb 5:  3.3
Feb 6:  2.7
Feb 7:  2.7

Feb 8:  4
Feb 9:  4.3    (NFB #13)
Feb 10:  2.7  (NFB #14)
Feb 11:  3.3
Feb 12:  3.7  (NFB #15)
Feb 13:  3
Feb 14:  2.7

Feb 15:  6
Feb 16:  5
Feb 17:  5    (NFB #16)
Feb 18:  4    (NFB #17)
Feb 19:  3.3
Feb 20:  3.7  (NFB #18)
Feb 21:  4.3

Feb 22:  4.7
Feb 23:  4.3  (NFB #19)
Feb 24:  4.7  (NFB #20)
Feb 25:  4.3  (NFB #21)
Feb 26:  2.7
Feb 27:  3.3
Feb 28:  3.3

20 thoughts on “Using Neurofeedback to Biohack and Retrain the Migraine Brain: Act IV

  1. Jasmine, It seems that 21 sessions with NeurOptimal® didn’t have a major impact on y our pain scores. As elegant as that NFB system may be, it is probably time to change strategy and find someone who uses a different Neurofeedback approach, for example based on a QEEG, LENS or ILF Neurofeedback. Also, there is a reason why I didn’t include NeurOptimal® in my Scientific Patient Guide THE MIGRAINE REVOLUTION.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Martin. Really love your book!

      Happy to report that I do have other NFB approaches on the back burner. I just decided to give a non-directive system a go first.

      And to be honest, I’m being charged half of what the QEEG specialist quoted per session, and that’s after $275 for the initial assessment and $550 for brain mapping, which I hear only gives you a snapshot of one moment in time, and is influenced by things like stress, not getting enough sleep the night before, etc.

      I promise I haven’t given up on NFB. The positive changes I’m experiencing with NeurOptimal alone has me curious what other approaches can bring.

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  2. Jasmine, good to hear. As you can imagine, migrainous readers of my book who can’t see me in my own practice (https://bodymindandbrain.com.au) often contact me for additional advice. I usually recommend a non-QEEG-based NFB approach first, for example Infra-Low Frequency NFB or protocol-based NFB. If that doesn’t suffice, QEEG-based approaches and even LoRETA NFB should have an impact in almost all cases. Yes, QEEGs are a snapshot of someone’s brain and it can change a little based on time of day, sleep quality, food intake etc., but it still shows what’s going on. It’s a bit like taking a photo of someone on a trampoline: High or low — you can still see WHO is bouncing.

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  3. Hi Jasmine!
    Sam from NeurOptimal® here. Thanks for the tweet!
    One must always keep in mind that NeurOptimal® is not a treatment, it is training. As ones central nervous system begins to regulate, symptoms of a less regulated CNS typically begin to become more manageable– think of someone with arthritis beginning yoga– while yoga certainly is not a cure for arthritis, that person will likely experience less pain and become more limber the more they practice. NeurOptimal® is very similar that way.
    RE: the migraines– I agree– they don’t seem to be dissipating. The work is being done on the inside via your NO sessions, so at this point I’d probably begin to have a look at what is going on outside the neurofeedback– is there anything you can think of (no matter how “normal” or “this is just how it is” it may seem to be), that could be triggering the migraines? Because unless that thing goes away, the pain will likely continue, unfortunately.
    Also, you’ve reported the pain intensity, but not the duration (from what I can see) of the headaches, or how distraught they are making you. I’d be very curious to hear if the duration of the headache has become less as well as how well you are managing the headache (mentally) when it happens.
    Please feel free to contact me back channel should you wish to discuss this further. Good Luck :)
    Sam

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    1. Jasmine,
      The otherwise lovely Sam is missing the point here. No NFB approach is a “treatment” for migraine attack symptoms (although I have aborted some attacks with Cygnet® ILF NFB). NFB should be utilised as part of a comprehensive therapy/rehabilitation of the particular brain’s problems.
      NeurOptimal® is known to be quite effective for Anxiety and PTSD. It is not ideal for Migraine Disorder as it uses the orienting response for feedback. In migraineurs, there orienting response does not habituate normally (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10817443) and this might explain why NeurOptimal® is not the favourite system for Neurotherapists seeing migraineurs.
      The rehabilitation of Chronic Migraine can be a challenging task. It’s all about overcoming obstacles and finding new solutions; that includes using various NFB approaches, especially when one doesn’t lead to improvements.
      Kind Regards, Martin Brink
      Board Certified Neurotherapist

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      1. Thank you, Martin.

        I was hoping there would be a trickle down effect with NO. Meaning improvements in anxiety/fidgetyness, how I process stress, etc., would eventually equate to minimization/elimination of chronic headaches – if in fact anxiety/stress/tension is the cause of my daily pain.

        But if Sam agrees that I should have experienced improvement by now, I may have to reconsider continuing with NO.

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    2. Hello Sam,

      I thank you for commenting and for the well wishes. I’ll contact you separately as you requested, but just wanted to respond here as well.

      I do understand that NFB is not a treatment or cure, but a means to retrain and rehabilitate the brain, but the reminder is great for readers to be aware of, so thank you.

      As you mentioned, I’m always considering other factors. In fact, my latest post discusses the possibility of Chronic Lyme Disease as a cause.

      As I mentioned in this post, the duration of my head pain is all day, every day, or did you mean how long did each change in intensity last?

      The hormonal migraine attacks are debilitating and can last from 12 hours to 72 hours. Especially when prescription abortives can’t touch them. The duration has not changed.

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      1. Jasmine,
        In addition to moving to another NFB approach, I suggest you look at the biochemical situation:
        Please test the following blood levels on day 21 of your cycle: Estradiol, Progesterone, DHEA-S, Testosterone, 25-OH Vitamin D, Homocysteine, Ferritin, Iron… (see chapter 17 of THE MIGRAINE REVOLUTION) and send me the results with the units. Also, consider an HTMA (see chapter 15). The best strategy for difficult, complex cases of Chronic Migraine is to fix everything that is not okay, but start with the big ticket items first and don’t get sidetracked with possible, yet unlikely factors.
        Cheers, Martin
        P.S. Blood drawn on day 21 (!!!)

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      2. I promise it’s not a side track (okay, maybe a little), but the fact that Lyme or other co-infection can disrupt hormones and/or digestion makes me want to solve that issue before trying to fix something with hormones, etc. Hope that makes sense. It does for me anyway.

        I will see if this new Lyme doc will order the tests you’ve listed. If not, I’ll set up an appointment with my primary (to get bloods drawn on Day 21!). Thank you :)

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  4. Hi Jasmine,
    Brain training with NeurOptimal® will get you functioning at your best, within whatever parameters you have to work with. Everyone’s journey is different. I always like to suggest to people to do sessions, get to your best within your parameters (in your case Lyme) and then, if you reach a point where you feel the shifts aren’t as dramatic you can take a step back and decide whether you’d like to do something more/change something or if you are ok with where you are at now. If you are still seeing shifts as you do sessions i’d recommend continuing, but only if you think it is helping you. Please do contact me, I love talking about this stuff :) – 514-448-2482. Much easier to talk on the phone!

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    1. Thank you, Sam. I am seeing positive shifts with NO, just as I have with going Paleo. It’s just a bummer that what I planned to fix is still there, after all my hard work. But just like I’ll never go back to the Standard American Diet, I won’t give up on NFB :)

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  5. It doesn’t mean you won’t see a shift in your migraines if you continue with your sessions– while 21 sessions may seem like many, it isn’t when you consider NO a lifestyle rather than a treatment. I personally have been using it for over ten years on a regular basis and will never stop. I’d be surprised to hear there is no shift at all as you carry on with your sessions. Please keep me posted!

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    1. After today’s NO session, and reaching that hypnagogic state I love so much – flowing in and out of it a few times – I decided to continue with NO until I find another form of NFB. It was recommended I contact Alan Bachers for more information.

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  6. Jasmine,
    Sam is right in that 21 sessions are not that many for a case of Chronic Migraine. We’ve had complex and complicated cases that took much more than 21 sessions to complete. However, if there is no more improvement with one approach, I swap to a different method with my patients.
    If you have unlimited resources (e.g. money), then you can certainly adopt the “NeurOptimal® lifestyle” in addition to finding (and paying) a Neurotherapist who fixes your Migraine brain with a more targeted, corrective NFB approach.
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but you need therapeutic progress and not just a manufacturer’s sales pitch (no offence, Sam). NeurOptimal® is a fine system for Anxiety or PTSD, but often iffy for Migraine for the reasons mentioned and you’re not making any progress with it anymore.
    Also, there is no such thing as “migraines”. Migraine is the name of the disorder and the episodes with intense symptoms are called “migraine attacks”.
    Kind Regards.

    Martin Brink

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  7. I appreciate all the input, Martin and Samantha. I trust you both want the best for me. I’ve decided to continue with NO while I work on the what’s-in-my-blood mystery.

    When I have a better sense of what’s going on, I’ll decide my next move.
    Thank you both! It truly means a lot that you’re taking time out to assist me and my readers <3

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